News Items

Reuters logo

After five years of #MeToo movement, a modest win for women's workplace rights

February 16, 2022

By 
Justice Matters
Reuters

A bipartisan group of lawmakers on Feb. 10 enacted one of the most momentous workplace rights reforms in more than a decade, and Congress’ most significant legislation against sexual harassment and abuse since the #MeToo women’s movement began five years ago.

The U.S. Senate approved a bill to ban companies from making employees sign away their rights to file a lawsuit over sexual assault or harassment, and to force them to take their claims to confidential arbitration instead. The House of Representatives had passed its version of the bill earlier.

Terri Gerstein, a fellow at the Harvard Law School Labor and Worklife Program, told me the legislation is an “important first step,” and a major accomplishment, especially given the stark partisan divide in Congress and businesses’ strong interest in keeping disputes out of court.

“I would not understate what a real accomplishment this is, and how meaningful it is to women who have faced harassment and assault,” Gerstein said. “It demonstrates a bipartisan recognition that forced arbitration is unfair to workers and that the secrecy is a problem.”

But Gerstein said she also wouldn't understate the importance of ending forced arbitration in wage, race discrimination and other types of workplace disputes.... Read more about After five years of #MeToo movement, a modest win for women's workplace rights

logo marketplace

Union labor complaint against Amazon takes aim at “captive audience” meetings

February 25, 2022

Meghan McCarty Carino
Marketplace

Organizers of an effort to unionize an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board this week, challenging the company’s right to require employees to attend anti-union presentations at work, a common tactic that is currently considered legal.

Labor advocates have long argued unions should be offered equal time in workplaces to present their own information said Benjamin Sachs, co-director of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School.

“It...

Read more about Union labor complaint against Amazon takes aim at “captive audience” meetings
EPI logo

Enforcers take action to protect workers from workplace violations at Domino’s and Family Dollar stores

February 25, 2022

by Terri Gerstein
Working Economics Blog
Economic Policy Institute

Recent cases brought by state and local enforcers include the recovery of $2 million for workers of a Seattle Domino’s franchisee that underpaid workers and didn’t give required notice of schedules; citation of Massachusetts Family Dollar stores for $1.5 million for thousands of meal break violations; and prosecution of several cases involving egregious violations of wage payment, unemployment insurance, and workers’ compensation laws.

WGBH News Logo

Infrastructure bills are kicking off billions in construction projects. Will workers of color get the jobs?

February 7, 2022

By Chris Burrell
WGBH News

Workers of color now make up almost a quarter of the state’s workforce in the building trades, their numbers climbing 30 percent from a decade ago, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But those trends aren’t clear in the state’s track record for hiring workers of color on public construction jobs. And with an infrastructure boom on the horizon fueled by federal funding, labor experts say the state has an opportunity to do better.

Despite a 2016 state mandate requiring all state agencies to track minority workers’ hours on...

Read more about Infrastructure bills are kicking off billions in construction projects. Will workers of color get the jobs?
Portland Press Herald Logo

Mills administration cracking down on employer wage and hour violations

February 6, 2022

Peter McGuire,
Portland Press Herald, Maine, Yahoo! News

Since Gov. Janet Mills took office three years ago, the Maine Department of Labor has escalated its pursuit of illegal workplace practices including wage theft, child labor and false record keeping, a significant departure from past practices at the agency.

The department's new approach is modeled on a practice called strategic enforcement, pioneered at the U.S. Department of Labor during the Obama administration. 

Generally, the shift to strategic enforcement means proactively working...

Read more about Mills administration cracking down on employer wage and hour violations
Construction Dive logo

Biden to sign order mandating PLAs on federal construction projects

February 4, 2022

Zachary Phillips
Construction DIve

Dive Brief:
President Joe Biden will sign an executive order Friday requiring project labor agreements on federal construction projects over $35 million, according to a White House fact sheet. 

The order, which is effective immediately, will impact $262 billion in federal construction contracts and affect nearly 200,000 workers. 

Nevertheless, the new executive order does not apply to work funded by grants to non-federal agencies, which includes the bulk of the projects funded under the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, a senior official told Reuters. 

​​​​​​​Mark Erlich, fellow at Harvard's Labor and Worklife Program and retired executive of the New England Carpenters Union, said the advantages of PLAs are many.

"On larger projects, PLAs allow for an uninterrupted access to skilled labor working under standardized and uniform terms and conditions," he said. "I believe their value has been established and most of the objections have been refuted."... Read more about Biden to sign order mandating PLAs on federal construction projects

logo Route Fifty

How Governments Can Boost Workplace Safety After Supreme Court Halts Vaccine Mandate

January 24, 2022

Terry Gerstien
Route Fifty

COMMENTARY | Although the court struck down the federal government’s Covid-19 vaccine-or-test mandate, there are ways states and localities can protect workers from the virus.

Earlier this month, in a decision that surprised no one who was paying attention, the U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative majority blocked an emergency workplace safety rule by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration requiring large employers to mandate...

Read more about How Governments Can Boost Workplace Safety After Supreme Court Halts Vaccine Mandate
Teen Vogue logo

Amazon and the Girl Scouts Are Unlikely — and Disturbing — New Partners

February 4, 2022

Terri Gerstein
Teen Vogue

This op-ed discusses the “problematic” new partnership between the tech giant and the Girl Scouts.

Amazon and the Girl Scouts of America recently announced a partnership to “engage girls in STEM.” As part of the program, Amazon fulfillment centers in more than 20 U.S. cities will host “Girl Scout Amazon Tours.” There’s even a special cobranded Amazon-Girl Scouts patch participants will earn.

It might seem an odd partnership for the Girl Scouts, whose mission is to build “girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make...

Read more about Amazon and the Girl Scouts Are Unlikely — and Disturbing — New Partners
American Prospect Logo

Will Starbucks Bargain With Its Baristas, or Just Pretend To?

December 16, 2021

by Terri Gerstein
American Prospect

Many newly unionized employers go discreetly AWOL (or worse) when it comes to negotiating a first contract. Coffee drinkers shouldn’t let Starbucks get away with that.

But even in Buffalo, the battle is far from over. Thursday’s union victory marked perhaps the end of the beginning. Serious challenges remain, including bargaining a first contract. Unfortunately, there are too many ways employers can try to destroy a union even after an election. We need better laws to stop these subtler forms of thwarting...

Read more about Will Starbucks Bargain With Its Baristas, or Just Pretend To?
American Prospect Logo

Starbucks: Purveyor of Fresh Coffee and Stale Union-Busting

November 23, 2021

BY TERRI GERSTEIN
The American Prospect

Management’s old-school battle against its Buffalo baristas’ organizing campaign reveals a failure to recognize how unionization can align the company with its consumers.

Starbucks, like any company whose workers are unionizing, could take a genuinely innovative path. It has the opportunity to become a visionary leader; its executives could use their imagination to move toward a different corporate future. Imagine a Starbucks in 2030 or 2035 that’s known nationally as the unionized coffee chain, with the most stable workforce among all quick-serve restaurants, amazing service, amazing coffee, beloved by a generation of customers, shareholders, and workers.

Can Progress on Diversity Be Union-Made?

Can Progress on Diversity Be Union-Made?

November 6, 2021

By Eduardo Porter
NY Times

In Boston, setting a goal for a racially diverse construction work force is one thing. Meeting it has proved more difficult.

“There is a legacy of racism, which by no means has been eliminated,” Mr. Erlich said. “I respect folks in the community that complain that things are not changing fast enough. And they are not changing fast enough.” Still, he argues, unions realize that “they need to become less homogeneous and reflect the demographics of the city.”

And he warns that the nonunion contractors that will...

Read more about Can Progress on Diversity Be Union-Made?
Construction Dive logo

Is 'Striketober' the moment construction unions have been waiting for?

October 28, 2021

, Senior Reporter
Construction Dive

The convergence of worker shortages, supply chain snarls and vaccine mandates could give labor the upper hand at the bargaining table, experts say.

But the broader trend of American workers demanding higher wages and better working conditions almost two years into the chaos caused by the COVID-19 pandemic raises the question: Could more strikes be ahead for construction, too?

"What we're facing now gives unions leverage at the bargaining table, whether they strike or not," said Mark Erlich, a fellow in the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School, and former executive secretary-treasurer of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters. "It at least will help them get better agreements."

Politico logo

How Corporations Keep Their Own Workers in Debt

October 21, 2021

Opinion by TERRI GERSTEIN

We typically think of debt that ordinary people and families owe to corporations as a consumer problem, but in today’s marketplace, it causes distinct harm to workers as workers. Very often, employer-driven debt holds workers hostage in their jobs and undermines their bargaining power to get a better deal.

President Joe Biden has vowed to be the most pro-worker leader this country has seen in years, and fortunately, he can use the authority of the federal government to address these abuses even without action from a gridlocked Congress.

One simple, yet powerful solution is to direct certain key agencies, including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Department of Transportation, to create dedicated offices for worker protection. Such a move would ensure that abusive worker-consumer situations are systematically and routinely addressed — not just through one-off cases — and would serve as a major acknowledgment that worker protection must look different in today’s economy.... Read more about How Corporations Keep Their Own Workers in Debt

bloomberg Law logo

Some States Could Stymie Enforcement of OSHA’s Shot-or-Test Rule

October 19, 2021

Bruce Rolfsen
Bloomberg Law

If and when federal OSHA enacts its national Covid-19 shot-or-test requirement, some state governments opposing that mandate could stave off for months the enforcement of its requirements.

That’s because the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration allows the governments of 26 states, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands to adopt and enforce their own workplace safety and health rules for private-industry or state and local government workers.

No release date for it has been announced. But, when federal OSHA enacts a new rule, state workplace safety agencies are required by federal law to adopt the U.S. rule or enact a measure of their own that is “at least as effective” as the federal mandate.

“States can do more, but they can’t do less,” said Terri Gerstein, director of the Harvard University Labor and Worklife Program’s State and Local Enforcement Project.... Read more about Some States Could Stymie Enforcement of OSHA’s Shot-or-Test Rule

Sky News logo

The Daily Climate Show: Deforestation in the most precious parts of the Brazilian Amazon reaches record levels

September 28, 2021

Daily Climate Show
Sky News

On the Daily Climate Show, we investigate who's behind industrial-scale deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon and why. Plus, the latest from the pre-COP26 youth event and our guests debate how Greta Thunberg has had such an impact on the world.

Dr. Xi (Sisi) HuLWP Program Fellow, discuss Greta and Amazon deforestation at 13:10 for about 7 mins.

Listen to interview... Read more about The Daily Climate Show: Deforestation in the most precious parts of the Brazilian Amazon reaches record levels

Pages